MAILANDER’S LA - The joke around the swifter corridors of City Hall runs that the Friday showdown between Council and the DWP/IBEW's contract salvo is such a big deal that Amy Wakeland is actually going to consult her husband before telling Ana Guerrero how to respond.
That joke is so nuanced that it presumes you know not only the name of Mayor Eric Garcetti's wife and that she often runs the economic show in the Garcetti household, but also the fact that she's very tight--and some would say too tight--with Garcetti's hot-blooded, vindictive Chief of Staff Guerrero.
It may be a cheap shot of a joke, but--I like the idea of Garcetti as political cuckold in this DWP matter. His staff and Commission appointments to date, unfolding slowly, show meticulous attention to detail--attention to detail regarding political paybacks, but not especially for forming civic dream teams. The joke also fits the psyches of husband and wife: Eric and Amy share the fabulously grating trait of wishing ever to be the smartest people in any room and don't seem to much like people around who might know more than them interrupting.
But neither Garcetti nor Wakeland is a genius when it comes to engineering outcomes, only for massaging the fallout from them into something fluffy and media and social media friendly. The Mayor has media nearly unanimously believing that he and Council are fighting some kind of meaningful fight against the DWP here.
But he doesn't have the people of LA believing that. Because he hasn't been out there on it yet. And nothing Amy and Ana have done yet is pointing to that either. Nobody's even asked meaningful questions in public that might resonate with the ordinary ratepayer as yet.
In fact, it looks mainly like Garcetti and Council are only biding time until they can find a way to save face on this.
I can't say this surprises me. Within a week of Garcetti's election as Mayor, I heard from someone on the erstwhile Team Greuel that IBEW's strongman Brian D'Arcy thought he had eight votes on Council--votes that will back this contract if need be, or votes that will sabotage it if need be.
Then I heard it was nine votes. Then I sat down with a de facto Garcetti operative and heard it was 12 votes.
I fully expect it to be all 15 by August 30.
In the words of an Old Hack I like to ask about these things--a favored political consultant I know--"Brian D'Arcy knew what he was doing on this contract before the Garcetti folks found the restroom at the Getty House."
A political neophyte's ability to locate various necessary rooms in the corridor of power has been long standing fodder for mockery--and this is why, in part, the Old Hack is the Old Hack.
But truly, though Garcetti is no neophyte, if you simply look at what's really on the table Friday, it's nothing much more than Council trying so hard to figure out how to make their tepid response to the D'Arcy plan look more ferocious than it really is. It already looks like it's nothing more than a roadmap for complete Council and Mayoral surrender, hoping against hope that the Mayor can spin a Peace with Honor settlement not only to media but to the remaining Garcetti true believers too.
Read them, and the two Council files are concessions already. The first, in which Council requests an analysis from two publicly faceless agencies--the City's Chief Legislative Analyst and the Office of Public Accountability (who?) of the proposed contract between DWP and IBEW, "with particular focus on the impact on the ratepayers."
This obviously can lead nowhere but towards accepting the D'Arcy deal--which the City's Chief Accounting Officer has already determined saves the DWP $6 billion over thirty years. The Council request really is an attempt to invalidate the previous CAO's report, using lesser known City Hall types to try to do so.
And the second, from two Council newbies with deep and likely obliging ties to the DWP, Curren Price and Gil Cedillo, asks that the DWP and City Attorney to work together--yes, together--to determine the impact and costs of a strike.
Most folks already know what the political impact of a strike is: the Mayor gets blamed after three days. And we already know what the tangible impact of a DWP strike is--every time there's a windstorm, the City's power grid starts to fail in ways that make the power grid of wartime Baghdad the envy of LA customers.
While Council and the Mayor spend all this time and civic energy trying to figure out what to do next, who do you think has mounted the clearest response to the DWP/IBEW plan to-date? Certainly not Wesson, not Budget and Finance Chair Paul Krekorian, not the Mayor. To date, as reported by the Department of Neighborhood Council's/EmpowerLA's Grayce Liu, it's none other than CityWatch's own Jack Humphreville.
"As of Wednesday evening, Jack Humphreville's comments were the only public comments on Council File 13-1004, as recorded by the City Clerk," Empower LA's "Special Bulletin" noted. That email is sent out to 15,000 citizens on the City's most empowered/disgruntled.
That's also less than one percent of the City's registered voters. It's also even less than 10% of Mayor Garcetti's incredible shrinking "mandate." And it's not even twice as many people as employees who work for the DWP. But the figure does include "1700+ [Neighborhood Council] Board Members," according to Empower LA spokesman Stephen Box.
I haven't read Humphreville’s response in public comments--but I did speak on the day before the Council kerfluffle to the man whose keyboard seems to get stuck on the $ sign whenever typing Bo$$ D'Arcy's name. It turns out he is far more direct than anyone in government has been.
"I read [Chief Legislative Analyst] Gerry Miller's memo and I didn't understand it. I thought it was poorly written and poorly organized," Humphreville told me.
"This strains credibility. I don't know where these numbers come from. For example, on these pension plans, is the total pension expense going to go up or is it going to go down? I can't tell."
That's probably a decent question for anyone in City Council who wants to pose it to a television reporter. But to try to do anything short of full capitulation to D'Arcy's offer, you'd have to find one of the seven--or three--or zero--Councilmembers willing to ask it on camera, wouldn't you?
Even so, trying to whip up something among the City's pitchfork people that might look like actual resolve, Liu's blast also noted that various Neighborhood Council tribes are holding their own Town Hall on Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, and they've invited Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, Wesson, Krekorian, Humphreville, Ratepayer Advocate Fred Pickel, and some scattered others. Have they invited camera crews too? And will they show? And what difference will it make if they do? If two thousand hostile-to-DWP commercials couldn't drive more than a fifth of LA's electorate to the polls, how might one extra four-minute second segment on the 10 o'clock news raise any additional hackles that haven't already been raised?
This most of all is why I might be inclined to advise all the newbies--who are actually being outflanked and outgunned by the denizens of Neighborhood Councils and pitchfork people, on whom they are apparently resting their best hopes--to grow up, and quickly.
Stop the tapdance. If you don't have the talent now, you won't have it in two weeks.
Spare us the drama.
The sooner you accept the inevitable--the sooner you accept what's on the table--the sooner you can get past it, the sooner you can run for political cover.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 11 Issue 66
Pub: Aug 16, 2013